Latest Gmail Lab – The Inbox Preview

    May 22, 2009
    Chris Crum

Google puts out features and labs like Takashi Miike puts out films – very frequently. And like Miike’s films, some are good, and some are quite questionable.

For every Audition, there’s a Happiness of the Katakuris. For every "mark as read" button, there’s a Gmail feces emoticon.

Takashi MiikeThe latest lab to come to Gmail is an inbox preview feature. If you are not patient enough to wait for your inbox to completely load, you can use this lab to view a static page displaying your 10 most recent messages while you wait.

Most of us with reasonably quick Internet connections will likely not find a whole lot of use for such a feature, but Software Engineer Peter Balsiger notes one example scenario in which it could be helpful. "Imagine that you access Gmail on a super slow connection from a remote place in Ethiopia where it might take minutes to completely load your inbox. The disappointment is larger when you find out that there is nothing new to read and you could have saved all that time," he says.

"Whenever I open up my inbox at work, I’m never surprised to find several new messages waiting to be read," says Balsiger. "The same thing can’t always be said about my personal Gmail account. Sometimes I end up checking my mail only to find nothing new there."

Anything to increase usability has to be a good thing, even if it is only a minor feature like this. You never know when you will find yourself in a situation where using this feature makes sense.

Unfortunately, most people will probably not activate the feature until they find themselves in such a situation. At that point, they’ll have to deal with that slow connection just to activate the feature in the first place.